where a love of God and good books meet

Tag: Fiction Review

What I’m Reading: Secrets Over Sweet Tea

Bread pudding. Five years ago, I would have said those words didn’t belong in the same sentence much less their ingredients in the same recipe.

I love bread. I love pudding. But the concept of pudding made out of bread sounded incredibly mushy and gross. To be honest, it still does. However, the reality of bread pudding is no longer something that causes me to scrunch up my nose in disgust.

One day, I got brave. Though at the time, I may have wondered if it was bravery or stupidity that lead me away from more known desserts like cheesecake and chocolate lava cake.

My husband and I were at an Irish Pub, and I was taking risks and trying new things. It was my birthday, after all. And the restaurant’s limited dessert menu left me with a choice between three items. I found myself requesting the bread pudding, and am I ever glad I did. I could be wrong, but I believe I heard angels singing as I took that warm, comforting first bite. Paired with salted caramel ice cream and filled with the flavors of fall, this dessert was as close to perfection as anything I’m going to find this side of heaven.

My foray into the wonderful world of bread pudding was unexpected but definitely worth it. I love it when something works out differently than I thought but much better than I’d anticipated.

That’s exactly what happened as I read Secrets Over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones. I picked up the book on a whim in a used bookstore my husband and I frequent. With all the seriousness going on in our world currently, I wanted a light read, full of humor and good times. The cover was inviting, the author new to me, and the back spoke of a boisterous southern pastor’s wife. It sounded like a perfect little ball of fluff for my weekend.

Scarlett Jo Newberry is as full of life and love as the back promised she would be. Not your typical pastor’s wife, her outgoing, outrageous personality is a turn off to some, but as people warm up to the woman underneath they see what an asset she is to their church and community.

But this story isn’t all fun and games. There’s a lot of heavy stuff in the secrets her congregation tries to hide. From adultery and addiction to divorce and sexual assault, all the characters twined together in the story have a serious, real to life issue they’re trying to keep secret. When truth comes out, the resulting mess is not easily contained.

It would have been easy for Secrets Over Sweet Tea to leave one bogged down with the reality of it all. It would also have been easy for the story to make light of the heavy issues and avoid any talk of repercussions. This story doesn’t go either of those directions.

Real issues are dealt with in truthful, scriptural ways. Discussions around how each person’s decisions affect those around them are realistic and honest. But the story balances the heaviness of the themes with faith and the vibrant personality of Scarlett Jo. The end result is an entertaining, truth filled story that makes you want to go back for seconds.

https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Over-Sweet-Tea/dp/B00FE3IFB4/

What I’m Reading: Five Days in Skye

I have a love/hate relationship with books set in places I have never been. And to be honest, that’s most of them since I’m not well-traveled. As pathetic as it is, I’ve only visited (not including those I’ve passed through on my way somewhere else) nine states, and I don’t even have a passport. Most of those were for martial arts tournaments or writing conferences. If you make me narrow it down to places I’ve actually spent at least three days in for something other than tournaments and conferences, I have to lower it to four, possibly five. My point is, there are a lot of places I haven’t been. So, I read about a lot of places I’ve never seen.

I love reading a book and being able to clearly picture the mountains in Colorado, the vinyards in California, or the colors of fall in New England. They create in me a desire to see these places for myself, and that’s where the hate comes in. Do you realize how many places are now on my “someday I’ll go there” list? It’s been steadily growing since high school, and I’ve yet to check one place off.

Take my latest read, Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano. Andrea Sullivan is set to vacation on a tropical island, and when her boss sends her on a business trip to Scotland, she is less than enthused. (I really don’t know what her problem was. I’d choose Scotland any day. Have you heard the way they speak? And who doesn’t want to explore castles?) Andrea goes because work is what she does, and she is in line for a VP position. Impressing the boss is more important than a little rest. Besides, she can relax any time.

The quick change in plans makes Andrea a little moody, and after a rocky start with her client, James MacDonald, she’s not feeling any better about the whole ordeal. James, on the other hand, is determined to help Andrea see how much there is to love about Skye. After slowly eroding some of her defenses, James succeeds in getting Andrea to stay longer than she expected, a total of five days in Skye to learn to live life away from work and love Skye. And despite previous hurts, family drama, and a strict code about mixing business with pleasure, Andrea may find she loves the man she met in Skye as well.

While the entertaining, well-told story and likable characters are enough to give the story a great review, the descriptions of Skye make it even better. As James and Andrea explore in and around Skye, the images readers are left with are a little more than enticing.

As I finished, I contemplated the need to get a passport, and I was only stopped by the reality that I don’t have the means to go anywhere right now, much less fly to Scotland. And with that truth, you can clearly see why I have a love/hate relationship with stories like Five Days in Skye. I love the story and the way the setting comes alive in my imagination, but I do kind of hate that I know I’m not going there any time soon. Of course, if the desire to visit Scotland hits me in the future, I could always spend more time there by re-reading Five Days in Skye!

Main Character Monday with Dean Blackburn

Welcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is homicide detective, Dean Blackburn, from Song in the Dark by Jessica White. Thank you for joining me.

Thanks for having me. But honestly, I’m used to being the interviewer not the interviewee.

What three words would you use to describe your author?

Curious, tenacious, and courageous enough to discover the truth. She reminds me of my three Dobermans when they catch a scent and refuse to abandon it until they discover the source. She never stops digging until she gets to the heart of the story.

Just for fun. Go with your gut.

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunset. It means I get to go home and spend time with my dogs.

Pie or Cake?

Honey Cakes & Moon Pies makes this pomegranate cake that’s to die for.

Tulip or Iris?

I guess irises, because they were my mother’s favorite. But whatever Jenna prefers.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Hands down, dark chocolate.

Interesting. Next question. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?

I’d probably get out of Albany, New York and visit some warmer climates. I’m not really the touristy type, but I like quiet places where the boys can stretch their legs and I can relax and read a book cover to cover without worrying about looking over my shoulder. Perhaps discover some unique bookshops hidden around the world, like the one in Coober Pedy, Australia that’s built inside a cave. Or Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece that carries old hardbound books.

Speaking of books, let’s talk the Bible. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of these traits do you find easiest to display in your life? 

Wow. I guess self-control would be my strongest. You can’t be a good detective if you don’t learn to control your thoughts and emotions and not let them get in the way of the evidence or project onto your victim or your suspect.

Which of them is the hardest to display?

Hardest? All the rest! Again, with my job, it’s really hard to see the good around you—but that’s why Jenna amazes me. She’s got the whole package. She even makes my curmudgeon of a neighbor grin like an old fool.


Jenna sounds like someone we all need in our lives. I’d love to meet her, but for now, we should continue with the interview. What is your favorite story from the Old Testament?

Old Testament? Probably the story of Gideon. Growing up a military brat, I learned to trust in numbers and weapons. But since meeting Jenna, I’ve learned God has us covered. Whatever we need, we’ll have when we need it.

What is your favorite book in the New Testament?

Acts. It’s practical. Stories like Ananias and Sapphira really hit home. I hate it when perps get away with lying to the cops. It’s good to know that even when I can’t see the truth in a situation, God knows. In the end, justice is His. If He chooses to let me be a part of that, then it’s a privilege.

If you could leave us with one message, what would you want us to know?

That darkness can’t extinguish light, but light can expel darkness. So surround yourself with people who bring light into your life. And never take them for granted.

Thank you for joining me today. I think you must be the first detective I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, and it gives you a slightly different perspective than most of the characters I interview.

Readers, you can find out more about Dean and meet Jenna in Song in the Dark by Jessica White. Keep reading for more about Jessica and where to find her book.

More on Song in the Dark:

After graduating from Juilliard, harpist Jenna Fields returns home to Albany to escape her manipulative ex and prove to her controlling mother that she can orchestrate her own life.

Homicide detective Dean Blackburn spends his days seeking justice for the dead. But darkness taints everything, including him.

When his three Dobermans lead him to Jenna playing in the park, he tries to resist the beautiful musician and focus on his cases. At least until he witnesses Jenna’s ex attempt to blackmail her and learns she’s being stalked, just like one of his homicide victims.

When her world crumbles beneath her feet, and Dean learns she has her own dark secrets, he helps Jenna see that the key to escaping her mother’s gilded cage is already in her hands.

Where to connect with Jessica: AuthorJessicaWhite.com for more info

Main Character Monday: Anna Marie Johnson

anna's songWelcome to Main Character Monday. Today my guest is Anna Marie Johnson from Anna’s Song by Brenda Gates. Welcome, Anna Marie. Let’s get started.

If you could choose only one thing to buy without money being an issue, what would you buy?

Oh, dear. That’s a hard one. At the beginning of my story, I’d have asked for enough to pay for the best private detective in the world. By the end of the book? What I would give for a car! But then, they hadn’t been invented yet. Then there’s antibiotics—but they hadn’t been invented yet either. Can you buy an end to war?

World peace, then? How much better would everything be if we could really learn to love each other. And it wouldn’t take money to do it. The New Testament tells the story of two sisters who react to Jesus visiting in very different ways. Mary chooses to spend her time with him, while Martha chooses to see to the physical details of his visit. Are you more a Mary or Martha?

Definitely a Martha. I’m very self-sufficient and am driven to solve problems. I usually end up making things worse for my meddling.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 – Do you think this verse, lived out would have made a difference in your life? If so, how?

Most of my life I found religion to be useless. I became bitter and trusted no one. Then I met the Dickersons. They lived out this verse to such perfection that it broke me. They constantly lived seeking to help others—me included. Because of this, they were able to face their worse enemy and love him anyway.

It sounds like they made quite the impression in your life. What scripture verse would you claim as a life verse?

Psalm 40:3. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Because of my synesthesia, I could often hear the songs that are the essence of different people. I don’t know how to describe it aside from maybe the sounds of their soul? My own “song” was a tangle of chords that made no music. By the end of my story, God gave me a song of my own.

If there was one message you could give those reading this interview, what would that be?

Nothing you have done, nothing that has been done to you, can make you unlovable to God.

That is a powerful message for sure. Now for a little fun.

Indoor or outdoor: I’m more of an indoor girl. Boy! Was I stretched out of my comfort zone!

Writing or reading: Reading. I’ll leave the writing to my mother and sister.

Apples or Pears: Apples. Hard and sour. Kinda like me? Pears are too mushy.

Early Bird or Night Owl: Night owl.

Anna Marie, how would you describe Brenda Gates in three words?

Passionate, adventurous, mean. Look at what she made happen to me? No sweet and kind person would do all that.

Thank you to Brenda Gates for allowing me the opportunity to interview Anna Marie. You can find out the rest of Anna Marie’s story in Anna’s Song, which is available on Amazon.

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